Created By: DennisDunjinman on April 21, 2013 Last Edited By: DennisDunjinman on December 14, 2013
Troped

Spill Stain Sabotage

Incriminating/Embarassing thing you never want to see again? Spill something on it.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
"Coffee! Eggs! Bacon! Whoops, too bad. Looks like I just made breakfast over whatever that record was for."

When a person has something that they never want to see again, they can render the item unusable by spilling something on it and making a huge stain. Spaghetti sauce is very good for this, but one can get creative and use things like black coffee, soda, feces and even Hollywood Acid. Or simply just spilling their inkwell on it.

Can be used to create a Conveniently Interrupted Document or an intentional Wardrobe Wound. The use of this trope can signal a Revealing Cover-Up. Not to be confused with Eat the Evidence, where instead of covering the offending object in food, the offending object is consumed as food. Compare with the Beverage Spill, where it's a character that gets messed up, and Mustache Vandalism, when one creatively uses ink to deface a portrait.

Definitely not to be seen as Discreet Drink Disposal.

Examples

Film
  • In Big Fat Liar, a movie executive steals the protagonist's school assignment and tries to make it the plot of his new film. The protagonist wants his assignment back to prove that he wrote it, only for the executive to stamp his cigar and pour vodka on it.
  • Variant in The Dirty Dozen, when one of the infiltrators spills a bottle of ink over the guestbook rather than sign a name.
  • In The Mummy: The head librarian "accidentally" sets fire to map to Hamenaptra with a candle, charring the map so it can't be read. He is secretly working with the Medji, trying to keep outsiders from stumbling on the city.

Literature
  • In Fall of Giants, Maud does this with a letter from her fiance to prevent her father reading it and learning of their plans to elope.

Live-Action TV
  • An episode of Hannah Montana shows that this is Miley's way of ensuring that she never has to wear dorky gift dresses she gets for her birthday without offending her father. She deliberately takes out a whole plate of spaghetti and smears it all over the dress, making stains so large that they become unwearable.
  • The various CSI shows have a technique to get around this and similar "liquid obliterates text" situations. Namely, photographing the page under several frequencies of light, making the text appear when the images are composited.
  • Sons of Anarchy had an episode where Chief Unser prevents the ATF investigators from investigating the car bomb evidence site by sneaking off, secretly peeing into a large cup of soda and then returning and "accidentally" spilling the pee/soda mixture right in the evidence area. Unser then explains to another character that the cancer treatments he's on contaminate his pee enough to set off a Geiger counter, and that when the ATF detects nuclear contaminants they'll have to leave the crime scene until a whole separate team can get there.

Video Games
  • Jumpstart Adventures3rd Grade Mystery Mountain. One of the game's missions had Polly decide to alter the reason Leonardo da Vinci wasn't about to construct a helicopter after designing it on paper by invoking this trope. Once fixed, the real reason becomes apparent: there were no electric motors in da Vinci's day to power a helicopter.

Web Animation
  • Homestar Runner really likes this trope.
    • Pictured and quoted above: Strong Bad is leafing through a book of world records and finds one of his younger self having the "Most Dirtiest Diapey". He instantly makes breakfast on it to save face.
    • Strong Bad as Dangeresque considers this trick by spilling either really old coffee or nasty Chinese takeout on the case file he has to solve before he leaves his office so it'll be unreadable and wash his hands of responsibility. This gets him landed in prison instead.
    • Homestar poured Mountain Dew on Strong Bad's computer to make a wet computer out of it. Strong Bad in turn pours an enormous bottle of Mountain Dew on Homestar's computer in turn as payback.
    • When thinking of various art styles for his hypothetical portrait, Strong Bad suggests a painting of him in a 17th century photo-realistic Dutch style, and remarked that these types of paintings are often vandalized by art bandits. Cue The Cheat spray-painting a RAD RAD ROBOTANK all over it. Strong Bad approves that after being vandalized, now it's worth something.

Western Animation
  • On The Simpsons, Homer hears from his daughter Lisa that his son Bart lied so he could go on a road trip with his other 10-year-old friends alone, and is working as a courier to get a chance to return home after losing all their money. Homer gets Bart back by pouring a Buzz Cola on his work console, shorting it out so he has an excuse to buy a new one and have Bart escort it.
Community Feedback Replies: 22
  • April 21, 2013
    StarSword
    TV:
    • The various CSI shows have a technique to get around this and similar "liquid obliterates text" situations. Namely, photographing the page under several frequencies of light, making the text appear when the images are composited.
  • April 22, 2013
    arbiter099
    The name misled me at first into thinking it was somehow related to the imageboard concept of asking for the "sauce" when you want to know the source of some image or bit of information. Maybe the new title could be based on coffee spills or related to the phrase "crying over spilled milk" somehow.
  • April 22, 2013
    Arivne
    Namespaced and italicized the OP work titles and added media headings.
  • June 7, 2013
    Melkior
    This seems to me to just be one detailed application of something more common, Obscure The Evidence, a subtrope of Hide The Evidence. This trope should be Obscure The Evidence if it doesn't already exist and Hide The Evidence should be created if it doesn't already exist.
  • June 7, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Well, it appears neither trope you mentioned exists. Does that mean there's a gaping hole in our archive?

    Still, "one detailed application" is just a fancy way of saying "subtrope". Therefore, Hide/Obscure The Evidence a Missing Supertrope.
  • June 7, 2013
    Melkior
  • September 24, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    The title has since been changed so it's no longer about evidence, but about destroying unwanted things by spilling food on them.
  • September 24, 2013
    RandomSurfer
    On The Simpsons in order to get a new work console Homer pours a Buzz Cola on it, shorting it out.
  • September 24, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    ^ Not quite what I had in mind: as I recall, Homer didn't want to destroy his console because he didn't like the console, but so he could have Bart and his lost friends as the courier escort for the new one.
  • September 24, 2013
    RandomSurfer
  • September 26, 2013
    Generality
    • Variant in The Mummy: The head librarian "accidentally" sets fire to map to Hamenaptra with a candle. He is secretly working with the Medji, trying to keep outsiders from stumbling on the city.

    • In Fall of Giants, Maud does this with a letter from her fiance to prevent her father reading it and learning of their plans to elope.
  • September 27, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    I know Tropes Are Flexible, but does burning count? (I think charring does, but not outright cremation).

    You'll have to elaborate on the Fall of Giants example. What gets spilled, exactly?
  • October 3, 2013
    robbulldog
    Perhaps related to this trope, in The Dirty Dozen, when one of the infiltrators spills a bottle of ink over the guestbook rather than sign a name.
  • October 16, 2013
    Generality
    ^^ In the Mummy, the map wasn't completely burnt, just the part with the information the characters needed. As for the other, it was either tea or coffee, I can't remember and I don't have a copy of the book.
  • November 14, 2013
    SharleeD
    Does this have to be limited to documents? I've seen cases (mostly in commercials) where somebody "accidentally" spills something on a cell phone, shorting it out, either to ensure the photo it just took isn't circulated or to justify getting a newer, flashier one.
  • November 14, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    ^ After including Homer Simpson spilling soda on his work console, we'll probably let anything slide so long as it involves some kind of chemical-based destruction where the object being inflicted won't work properly anymore.
  • November 15, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Bumping. I'm wondering if I should extend this trope to the immolation of sensitive times. I don't know if Spill Stain Sabotage would including burning evidence.
  • November 15, 2013
    Statalyzer
    What is the point of a special trope for each method of obscuring a document or sabotage a machine?
  • November 15, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    Well, Spill Stain Sabotage is flexible because it doesn't matter what you dump on the thing whether it's sauce or ink or soda or coffee or Hollywood Acid. Burning sounds like The Last Of These Is Not Like The Others.
  • November 22, 2013
    jrh03
    Nice. Most ridiculous I can think of is the Sons of Anarchy episode where Chief Unser prevents the ATF investigators from investigating the car bomb evidence site by sneaking off, secretly peeing into a large cup of soda and then returning and "accidentally" spilling the pee/soda mixture right in the evidence area. Unser then explains to another character that the cancer treatments he's on contaminate his pee enough to set off a gieger counter, and that when the ATF detects nuclear contaminants they'll have to leave the crime scene until a whole separate team can get there. (Wow. Though I just looked this up and while far fetched, it IS technically accurate. radioactive iodine treatment.)
  • November 29, 2013
    DennisDunjinman
    May I call for hats?
  • December 4, 2013
    Paradisesnake
    Namespaced a couple examples.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ojs7cv59f1hk1fqvtl09cgji&trope=SpillStainSabotage